Negotiating with Providers – There Isn’t a Right Way After All

If you have any connection to the sex worker community on Twitter, you have probably already heard about the contentious article posted on Slixa yesterday (that has since been removed and replaced with an apology). A guest poster for Slixa, known as Tommy, provided an article with some tips on how to negotiate rates with a provider. He boasted the effectiveness of his suggestions, claiming he “hasn’t paid full price in years” for an entertainer’s time.

In his article entitled, “Negotiating With Providers – Yes There is a Right Way,” Tommy argued that provider costs are about their assessment of their risks versus their rewards, and claimed that being “low-risk” should provide a discount. He advocated using review writing and being an active member of the hobbyist community as a bargaining chip to see if prices are negotiable. Not so surprisingly, Tommy’s tips are less effective (and ethical) than he would like to believe.

Tommy’s advice is presented as an easygoing approach to negotiation that is intended to show the provider what a decent guy he is, making it impossible for her to deny him the opportunity of a discount. However, Tommy’s advice is far from decent: it abuses his social influence in a way that can affect a provider’s ability to survive. There is an implicit threat that comes with, “I am a loud, influential voice in a community that can affect your livelihood; now can you do this favor for me?” Tommy’s article was written as if he was ignorant to how manipulative his tips are, but it seemed disingenuous at best. Based on the way his article was written, it seems as though he gets a thrill out of violating boundaries and feeling as though he has somehow tricked a provider for his benefit, which is reprehensible.

His comments about how being a “low-risk” client, presumably meaning non-violent and relatively polite, justifies pushing for bargains from sex workers. Sadly for Tommy, being a decent human being isn’t rewarded with bonuses because it should be a minimum requirement.

Tommy may believe that providers who are open to reviews have not taken offense, but the vast majority of providers are not going to share their thoughts with clients who approach them like this. Many providers like Ginger McNaughty will blacklist dudes who pull this kind of shit without ever mentioning it to them (sidenote: me too). According to Annora Quinn, a provider who took issue with the original article on Twitter, she doesn’t even reply to emails like this at all.

In an email, Quinn shared more of her thoughts on why Tommy’s advice is so flawed:

“The underlying message of [Tommy’s] article is that providers aren’t worth what they charge and through manipulation you can get her to break her own rules. You let her know that you’re cheap (despite saying so clearly that you aren’t) and aren’t going to become a regular client… I also think it’s deeply manipulative to mention the fact that she might have a goal of how much money she needs to make on a given day and to use that against her. The fact that she might need to pay her rent in two days or buy groceries for dinner doesn’t mean that you should only have to pay 2/3rds of her rate. You don’t negotiate with other businesses because you know they have overhead or bills that need to be paid, why would you do it in this industry?”

Quinn brings up an excellent parallel that is often ignored by civilians: Sex work is remarkably like any other freelancing gig. Although freelancers of all kinds (writers, graphic designers, social me, and photographers come to mind) still encounter folks who try to negotiate price points, it is becoming less and less socially acceptable to ask for free services (and for good reason!). Olivia Acqui, another provider who took exception to Tommy’s approach, commented on this as well, saying, “I’m not of the opinion that sex work is somehow extra special and therefore exempt from market forces, but I do believe that bargaining shows a basic lack of respect for the value a person places on their time and labour. I would not bargain with my hairdresser or my housekeeper or my mechanic. That does not mean that I would not find the best price, but I would not dispute the price they have set on their time and endeavours.” Like many of these other jobs, sex work requires time, effort, and skill that often goes unacknowledged, and yes, deserves to be paid for.

Sex work is work. Private entertainment is a job. Most people expect to get paid for the work they do so that they can pay their bills, and sex workers are no different. In the words of Nina Adler, Tommy’s approach to providers “shows contempt for the time and effort we put into our business.” Olivia Acqui expanded on this, stating, “I believe that bargaining is at it’s base a power struggle and a basic disconnect with what a booking represents. Bargaining is an opportunity for someone to attempt to exert power.”

By now, you may have figured out that Tommy’s advice is a quick formula for alienating and angering providers, rather than impressing them. As for how to be both an excellent, ethical purveyor of erotic services and potentially get the hook-up, a few of the providers I spoke to offered their advice. Quinn recommended becoming “a good regular client,” saying that she “always throw little perks toward my regulars, whether its extra unpaid time, having his favourite bottle of wine, or an extended period of grandfathered rates.”

If you find that a provider is out of your price range, Quinn recommends taking some time to save up for a good splurge on a longer appointment. She pointed out that most providers already offer discounts for extended bookings, and more time together offers the opportunity to establish a stronger rapport that leads to a better connection.

For folks who are new to hiring entertainers, Greta Christina’s Paying for It: A Guide by Sex Workers for Their Clients is a wonderful resource; it offers extensive advice on how to have an optimal exchange with your chosen provider.

At the core of this, it seems that Tommy has a fundamental misunderstanding of what constitutes “respect.” Bogglingly enough, while he insists that being respectful to providers is important, he simultaneously encourages manipulative behavior that relies on the opportunity to exploit a provider’s financial need. He is essentially advocating swooping in when a provider is less empowered to say “no” when they want (or need) to for the sake of saving a couple of twenties and bragging rights.

To put it plainly: Tommy’s behavior is the dick-ish behavior of someone who gets off on coercing vulnerable people. And that is not okay. Take this tip from the pros: If you are looking to get the best experience from a provider, start by treating them with genuine respect and courteousness. Oh, and pay up.

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